ISLA DE MESCALA
The article below is taken from the website The Informer, with my own photographs added, taken last week on the island. I am placing a copy of the article here, as the research is better than I can do myself with my limited knowledge of Spanish.
GUADALAJARA, JALISCO (26 / JAN / 2014) .- Many of the Sunday walkers who visit the Chapala Lake to rest from the city bustle, do not know what is beyond their boardwalk. One of those well-kept secrets is the Island of Mezcala, a prodigious 20-hectare land full of living history, which also offers the most amazing views of the gray water mirror.
From the island the rebels could see how the Spanish reconstructed their galleons on the coast of the Ribera across from them. The ships had been taken apart and brought overland from the ocean to the Lake Chapala to conquer the rebels. They failed and the ships stranded on the rocks and against the underwater barriers.
(Debbie, Carol, Dennis and the guide by the church that lost its roof. Grandson Jackson was there too; he roamed around the island with the pup in tow).
(The church was built on the place where sacrifices were made to the Aztec gods, here on the island, and all signs of their worship were extinguished and the idols were thrown in the lake by the priests. The recent renovations of the site allowed for a circle to be restored, to indicate that there was indeed a previous culture of Aztec people).
(Above a photo of the crosses, I am not sure of their meaning, and where the virgin was honored with a statue and where the local Nahuatl prayed. It was removed with the restoration of the historical site).
Founded around 1280, it was once a cult center of great importance for the pre-Hispanic civilizations of Jalisco. Also later known as Presidio Island, it is located on the North Bank of Chapala Lake and is reached by the Chapala Highway after passing through other riverside towns such as Tlachichilco del Carmen, San Juan Tecomatlan, San Nicolás and Ojo de Agua.
(Inner courtyard of the prison-Fuerte with Carol, Dennis, and the site’s guide)
The island belongs to the town called Mezcala de la Asunción, in the municipality of Poncitlán, where there is a community of indigenous Coca, mostly fishermen, and textile artisans. There are also some huaraches workshops. From the town, there are boats to get to know that piece of land surrounded by fresh water.
(The trees offer welcome relief from the sun. The guide said these trees were not here during the time of the presidio.)
From the traces of its pre-Columbian greatness, there were palpable testimonies such as obsidian tips, ornaments, shooting tombs, ceramic pieces from the Teuchitlán tradition (Guachimontones), the Ixtépete type (the classic period from 200 to 700 AD) and the Aztlán tradition (850 to 1350 AD). But his most recent history takes us only about 200 years ago.
(On the way by boat to the island: the birds watch us, while we watch them.)
(This tree is called Arbol de la Vida–Tree of Life and was revered because of its health in spite of having no soil to draw nutrition from. The locals had put a statue of the Virgin there at the bottom of the tree and held prayer sessions, but that all disappeared in the push to update and restore the site.)
(A piece of art in a gallery of folk art in San Miguel de Allende that I thought would give an impression of how rich the inner life and the imagination of indigenous peoples can be if this painting is an expression of that.)
(Father Hidalgo calling the people to stand up against the Spaniards, starting the rebellion in Guanajuato and Dolores and in San Miguel de Allende. Mural in Ajijic).
(Among the rebels on Mezcala Island was Castellano, a priest in Ajijic. He is buried in Jocotepec. Mural in Ajijic.)
In Mezcala, one of the most fascinating chapters of Mexico’s War of Independence was written. Persecuted after the battle of Puente de Calderón on January 17, 1811, a group of insurgents settled on the island to raise a fortress that resisted the attacks of the royalists for four years (1812-1816).
In the site, there are remains of thick walls, made of stones arranged on top of each other, which constituted the tanneries, barns, obrajes, corrals, as well as the dormitory galleries for the soldiers, the kitchens and, fundamentally, the crossings where the insurgents watched what happened in the distance.
It was not the weapons that subdued the rebels. The resistance happened because of an epidemic of typhus spread among the population. When the forces of the Spanish Crown realize that they can not defeat them by force, they decide to extinguish any nearby source of food, medicines and hygiene products. That caused the disease to proliferate and in the end, the insurgents surrendered.
So that no one would forget what happened, Don José de la Cruz, mayor of Nueva Galicia, known for his cruelty and bloodthirsty methods when fighting, ordered in 1817 the installation of a prison that would prevent the rebels from recovering the island. Thus, a new fortification was built, consisting of a moat, drawbridges, embrasures, plaza, slopes, firing ranges, among other elements, of which the ruins still remain. It is the only structure of military architecture that survives in Jalisco.
(Mural on the lakeshore in Ajijic indicating the history of the rebellion and what happened on Isla de Mezcala. You can see the Spanisg galleons sailing up, but they got shipwrecked on the dfence system of walls of rock)
With the passage of time, this story was left in oblivion. But since 2005, the State Government undertook a comprehensive rehabilitation of the island that ended only last year. The objective was to detonate its tourist potential, and the main intervention consisted in the rescue of the ruins of the fortification now known as Casa Fuerte to turn it into a museum.
In addition to its island, Mezcala has much to offer visitors curious, foreign or local. In the heart of the town, it is worth knowing an architectural work of religious type dating from 1703, the Church of the Assumption, dedicated to the Virgin of the same name, with its white facade and its two brick towers.
You can also go hiking in Punta Grande and El Venado hills. What definitely can not be left out is a visit to the famous “Cueva del Toro”, where there are cave paintings and petroglyphs that have been preserved over a huge rock for centuries.
How to get?
From the Metropolitan Area of Guadalajara you have to take the Carretera Chapala until you reach the municipal capital. Then, travel the González Gallo road for about 22 kilometers.
The journey from Chapala to Mezcala lasts just under 30 minutes.
By: INFORMATOR The original was in Spanish on the website.
January 26, 2014